With the Herald finally gone, the party had a moment to breath without worry of death finding them around the corner. It was just a matter of waiting for Count Atretheon’s men to arrive.
What were we to do in that time?
Caiden felt a need to go back to the crypt Simon originally found him. If he saw his father there, all-be-it in the fleeting moments before the darkness of oblivion was taking him, he might find answers there.
Knowing he should no longer go anywhere alone, he asked if Wren, or whatever silly name she’s going by that Caiden never remembers, Alice I think, if she’d go with him. Despite her current struggles with the news of her mothers recent passing, she agrees to go with him to be his body guard of sorts, or at the very least, another warm body to help out.
The walk to the crypt was quiet, but lacked the usual death strikes from the shadows the party is accustomed to. It was what some might call ‘peaceful’. The two arrived to find the Shrine to those that died in the Rebellion of Theros as they left it, quiet and calm.
Caiden walked in while Wren watched the entrance. He found the spot Simon found him, right infront of a slab unmarked by names unlike everything else. On it instead was a plaque that read – “Here the hero Aegeus struck down Theros of the Reddened Hand, ending the Rebellion of Theros and saving many lives.” Under that was another inscription – “In memory of the hero Aegeus, who sacrificed his life in battle here to once more save Fellgate from Evil. May Mirala’ana accept his soul as her truest champion.”
Caiden felt the inscription as if there was a meaning there he was missing. There was no date of birth to this champion, but there was a date of his death. It was within a year or two of his own birth. The plaque also bared the mark of the Knights Hospitalers. Having little knowledge outside of the healing arts, Caiden turned to Wren.
“Wren, have you ever heard of the Knights Hospitaler Aegeus?”
She smiled and nodded. “I have heard it at least a dozen times at the Refrain. He existed only as Aegeus, never giving out a last name nor taking one. He was not heard of prior to the Rebellion of Theros so any information prior to that is known only in the tales the other Bards would weave. It was he that struck down the nearly invincible corrupted Knight here in Fellgate. He was aeldri obviously, but never talked of his past. He guarded it close for some reason. Again, many tales are spun as to what his past was. Because of his out worldly good looks and prowess on the battle field, you can image the stories that were told.”
“A lieutenant of Theros escaped the first battle, and according to the stories, swore vengeance for the defeat of his master” Wren continued. “Tales of the two fighting span the next 20 years for them. The two would met and fight, the lieutenant doing what he could to kill Aegeus, Aegues trying to knock him out, capture him, stop him as best he could. Many a battle ended with the lieutenant wounding civilians in order to flee. He knew Aegeus could not let anyone die if he could save them.”
“The tale of Aegeus sadly ends when the lieutenant lured Aegeus back here to Fellgate where it had all began. Of course it was a trap of some kind, giving the lieutenant the upper hand, thus allowing him to kill Aegeus. The tales conflict on this last part, but it’s believed that Aegeus was able to mortally wound the lieutenant before he himself died.”
“From there, the tales told go in many different directions. In one tale, they say the lieutenant killed himself in grief, having killed his arch rival. Another says that he was horribly disfigured in the battle with Aegeus, renamed himself ’The Reaper’, and fled to the blood plains to lick his wounds. In either case, he has not been heard from since.”
Wren continued, “The funeral was attended by thousands. Aegeus had been a miraculous healer. Hundreds of lives he saved in his lifetime by his arts, and hundreds more by his sword arm. He was loved and respected by all. But he was a humble man and never sought leadership. He put others before himself, aways. But the locals of Fellgate and pilgrims to the memorial of Aegeus claim that late at night they would sometimes find a unearthly beautiful woman near the tomb. Sometimes singing, sometimes crying. And sometimes, cherry blossoms were found around the tomb. Particularly odd since cherry trees don’t grow here.”
Caiden thought long on the story she told. The name ‘The Reaper’ was one he was actually familiar with. It was a name the other kids at the orphanage used to use to scare the others. “The Reaper will get you if you’re not good. The Reaper roams the streets and will find you when you’re alone.” they would say. He was known to have been in Phoenix.
The more he thought about the stories, the more he remembered. He was fairly sure the Reaper lived because he heard a story that the Reaper came back to Phoenix and slaughtered a family shortly after the funeral. The rumor was dismissed by the adults of course.
Wren thought a moment, the spoke again. “There was another story about him, durning the 20 years of fighting. It was rumored that he fell in love with a woman he saved from the Reaper. Among the belongs found on him at the time of his death, a ring was found with the inscription “Love is eternal”. The tales say it was meant for a noble woman, princess, or an elven woman that matched his beauty.”
Caiden had a pang in his heart. The story of his family being killed and the vague descriptions of who is father was. It could be him. “The woman could very well have been a peasant.” He spoke softly, then trailing off in the last part “It could have been my mother…”
Wren nodded. “That was another story, but it was mainly believed that the peasants made it up. No one could believe that a man such as him would ever fall for a peasant woman.”
Stories and New Oracles…
Moments later, Wren and Caiden heard rustling outside. The two jumped, ready to strike if needed. Only instead of yet another vicious killer to greet them, Thomas Atretheon appeared in the doorway.
“I’m really sorry to be snooping. But I sensed it was important. So I kinda told my dad you had asked me to come with you…. He wasn’t thrilled, but he agreed. I didn’t know why I was coming, but seeing a grown Knight cry is kind of freaking me out. I gotta help if I can.” Thomas sighed.
“What Knight are you talking about?” Caiden asked cautiously.
“The one standing next to you. He looks rather frustrated by quite happy at the same time.” Thomas responded.
“You can see the dead Thomas?” Wren asked almost as cautiously while still holding Bratirion.
“I can’t say that I know for sure. All I know is what the murderous servant of the Watcher of Betrayal told me just before he bled me and left me to die on that alter. Not exactly the most trustworthy source.” Thomas responded cooly.
“It’s a long story, and one I don’t know very well. You’re the Oracle of Mirala’ana right?” He asks Caiden.
“And would it maybe be okay if I put my arms down now, my lady?” He asks Wren.
“Fine” Wren responded, though she never lowered the bow.
Caiden nodded in response to his question, allowing Thomas to continue, "Well, the Herald said you would come. He was excited about it in fact. Apparently you are on Kal’Dan ’ s list. He’s in the market for a new Oracle. And the Herald thought that you would fill the bill nicely. So you should be careful. It doesn’t sound like it’s really a job you volunteer for. And yes, I can see you and hear you, but I’m talking to the hot girl that wants to shoot me and the Oracle of Mirala’ana. Little busy at the moment.”
Caiden and Wren looked at each other, then back to Thomas. “Who are you talking to Thomas?” Caiden dared to ask, “Unless you have your own Seraphim”.
“Why would I have a Seraphim? " Thomas asked. "And good question. Who am I talking to Ser?” He listens and then does a double take. "No way! Not THE Aegeus? But you can’t be. I’m pretty sure heroes don’t cry.” He pauses a moment, listening. “No, I’m pretty sure you are. How do ghosts cry anyway?”
Caiden looked to Wren, saying dryly “This must be what I look like…”
Thomas listed for some time, nodding. Caiden tried to speak, but Thomas just held out a finger to stop him. "Okay. Ser Aegeus says that you are his son and he has been waiting so long to meet you. So congratulations, I guess?”
Caiden smiled and nodded with just a little pride “If the stories are true…”
“Some of them are at least. He says to tell you his energy is fading. It took a lot out of him to manifest and save you from the penenggalens. And this is apparently the unfinished business he had, so time is growing short.” Thomas continued. "He says that your mother was Talia Farnsworth. And he loved her very much. He kept some belongings under a board in the kitchen of her home. But The Reaper took them when he…. oh. The night you went to the orphanage, so he doesn’t have much to offer for proof of an inheritance, all he has is the story.”
“I really hope I don’t sound as crazy as I think I sound,” Thomas says apologetically. “And hopefully it doesn’t ruin my chances for a possible date?” He asks hopefully and glances at Wren.
Caiden broke out laughing, Wren merely rolled her eyes at him.
“Okay, okay, okay, fine,” Thomas says. “More story.”
Thomas listens for a minute, then shakes his head. “They can do that?”
“Then why would…..OKAY, OKAY. Your father says he wasn’t born on Ondoron.” Thomas continued. "He says that he was a Seraphim originally.”
Caiden looked shocked, “What do you mean, originally?”
“He fell. As in capital ‘F’ Fell. He gave up his immortality to become a mortal. Because the Seraphim have vows about minimal involvement in mortal affairs. And mankind desperately needed help. Despite his mother’s advice, he chose to make the ultimate sacrifice to get involved. There was more to Theros Red hand than history tells. He came into possession of an artifact that corrupted him. An artifact that mortals should not have. It was an ancient circlet that was once worn by Kal’Dan Melir. It forged a link with the Lord of Deceit and gave its wearer power. That’s how Theros was able to raise the army of undead out of nowhere. Aegeus succeeded in striking him down, but the circlet escaped his grip. The circlet has a powerful temptation ability. As a Seraphim, your father could have resisted the pull fairly easily. But his new mortal body, with its passions and desires, betrayed him. He struggled against the temptation, and in the meantime a lieutenant of Theros snatched the circlet and fled.”
“Does that mean he’s the shard of Kal’Dan?” Caiden asked.
“Your father says no. It’s not as powerful as possession of the shard. This circlet merely possesses a portion of his former consciousness and a much smaller investiture of power. The shard you speak of didn’t come to be until after his Aegeus’s death. But if the circlet would find it’s way to the bearer of the Shard, it would likely be disastrous.” Thomas continued. "Your father says he dedicated the rest of his life to protecting mortals and trying to obtain the circlet. Unfortunately, he was killed here. The Reaper deceived him into a trap. Your father says he landed a blow that should have killed him, but it didn’t. Likely the Reaper gave himself fully to the circlet in exchange for one last act of revenge against your father…and his family. "
Caiden almost teared up, and nodded, knowing what that meant.
“It takes a strong will and a humble heart to resist the circlet. It senses the presence of the Shard in the world too, and is likely seeking it out in hopes of rejoining the rest of Kal’Dan’s essence. He says you must finish his life’s work.”
Caiden nodded. “Of course I will.”
“He thanks you….and he says he loves you and is proud of you. He believes in you.” He looks over at a place in space. “I don’t have to hug him or anything do I?”
With that, the spirit departed. The three of them talked of the odd things that just transpired. In the end the three went back to the rest of the group.
After getting back with the others, Count Atreathons men showed soon after. From there they transported us to his keep. It was a great feeling to be somewhere in which people didn’t peel there skin away to reveal floating organ vampires, but then again, we had just gotten there.
We took some much needed rest in our own rooms. Finally…a bed to sleep in.
The next morning, we all awoke in a place much different than what we had gone to sleep in. The area looked like the keep we were in, but it was ruined. In many places, the walls and roof was gone in many places. The sky broiled in dark green clouds and the land seemed dark and twisted. The four of them, Thomas, Simon, Wren, and Caiden seemed to be fine, but the world around them had changed drastically.
The entire town around them seemed to be in ruins. The only thing left was the main keep just up the hill. Where were they to go but there?
As they walked, they noticed large wolves stalk them from the edges of their vision. First one, then three, and before they knew what was happening, eight were following them as they made their way to the keep. Lucky for the party, they did not strike out, but stalked them eerily, closing in the closer they got to the keep.
The main gate was partially open, rubble all around, keeping the door open, but the way hard to go through. The four of them went to the main chamber to find a large man dressed in thick scarred wolf pelts. He form large and scarred as the pelts he wore. His beard long and unkept, perhaps mixed with blood and earth. The man looked up and saw us with an odd hunger in his eyes. As we walked closer, another 4 wolves came from behind him. One larger than the rest came up next to the man growling deep and baring his fangs.
“Down Dusan” the man spoke in strong words. Every wolf seemed to pause in their steps, circling us completely. At mention of ‘Dusan’ the party, minus Thomas since he’d never met him, recognized Thorn, but much much older.
“Who dares enter my realm” Thorn spoke strongly. His eyes moving to each of us.
“To be honest, we don’t know” Simon said plainly. “We didn’t plan to be here believe me.”
“Dusan…you called him Dusan. Is that, actually him” Wren asked motioning to the large wolf next to Thorn.
Thorn grabbed a tuff of Dusan’s hair, then stroked his back slowly. “No, of course not. The real Dusan died long ago.”
“Died, how?” Caiden asked, a bit of confusing in his voice.
“He died alongside Takeo in Trigonum. When his previous party members failed to help, he and Takeo took on the forces alone. They died of course, but not without taking out more than a couple ranks. I barely made it out alive myself.”
“Where were w…I mean the rest of his party?” Caiden asked.
Thorn thought a moment. “Oh, let me think. There was…Simon. He, we never heard from after the split. I, to this day, have no idea where he is.” Thorn thought a moment more. “Wren…died when she went to face the outsiders alone. It was mad of her to even think to do it, but she did it anyway. Guess she really did take after her parents”.
“What…of the Oracle?” Caiden dared to ask.
“The Oracle…you mean, the Oracle of Kal’Dan?” Thorns voice was deep with anger and hatred as he spoke those words.
“No, the Oracle of Mirala’ana.” Caiden spoke again.
Thorn shook his head, trying to remember, growling again. “I vaguely remember something about that, but all I know now is the Oracle of Kal’Dan.” There was more than hatred now, a fear in his voice. He went quiet, thinking about it.
“You must be mistaken, the Oracle of Mirala’ana would never choose that.” Caiden spoke somewhat defiantly.
Thorn growled, as did every wolf in the room. “Of course not. He died, but was wrecked back to this world as the creature that did this. Between him and the outsiders, we were doomed on every angle.”
The party was quiet, trying to decide what to do next, but Thorn made that decision for them.
“Forgive me, but my pets haven’t eaten real meat in some time. Feed my pets.”
There was a quick battle, the wolves taken out fairly easily and Thorn going down. He’d faced many battles, but he was alone. He stood little chance.
The battle over, the party found themselves still in the barren land, unsure what to do next.
The answer came next through Thomas. One moment everything was fine, the next a dark cloaked figure hovered just behind Thomas. A hand rested on his shoulder. The figure made no motion of speech, but as Thomas spoke, we knew he wasn’t the one in control.